Blanketed by lush tropical forests, Ecuador is a small country that packs a big punch when it comes to biodiversity. Immerse yourself in some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes with extended stays at two award-winning eco-lodges. High in the Andes, discover volcanic craters, fertile valleys and sparkling lakes via foot, bike and horseback. Then descend into the Chocó rain forest to encounter a breathtaking array of flora and fauna on guided nature walks through some of the most pristine jungle in Ecuador.
Ride horseback through lush Andean valleys enjoying views of soaring peaks and the Imbabura volcano.
Observe all manner of wildlife from your glass-walled room at Mashpi, a National Geographic Unique Lodge nestled in a misty cloud forest canopy.
Take a private tour of Quito's well-preserved colonial old town, a UNESCO World
Ride an aerial bike through the treetops of the Chocó rain forest, and let bioluminescent
flora guide you on a jungle night walk.
Itinerary - 7 Days
Day 1 — Arrive Quito/Imbabura Province
Arrive in Quito, Ecuador where a driver awaits your arrival at the airport. Head north to a traditional hacienda nestled within an Andean valley — your base in Imbabura Province. Weather permitting, you can enjoy stunning views of the Imbabura volcano from the property. Sample Ecuadorian cuisine at dinner at the hacienda tonight. Hacienda Zuleta (D)
Day 2 — Imbabura Province
Spend the day exploring the peaks and valleys of Imbabura Province beginning with a visit to the town of Otavalo, whose vast and vibrant open-air market provides a fascinating glimpse into the local culture. The town’s indigenous population is particularly known for its weaving, an ancient tradition that has continued despite occupation by the Inca and by Spanish conquistadors. Visit a textile workshop to watch weavers in action, and peruse the market’s colorful displays of handicrafts. In the afternoon, hike the rim of the Laguna de Cuicocha, an immense crater lake of sapphire-blue water. Hacienda Zuleta (B, D)
Day 3 — Imbabura Province
This morning, pay a visit to Condor Huasi, a rehabilitation center for the Andean condor, to learn about these majestic birds and efforts to release them back into the wild. Visit a nearby trout farm before lunch at the lodge, then take the afternoon to explore the Andean highlands as you wish. Help tend the cows at a local dairy farm, or set out on foot, bike or horseback into a landscape of rolling hills and not-so-distant snowcapped peaks. Hacienda Zuleta (B, L, D)
Day 4 — Imbabura Province/Quito
Journey to the equatorial monument Mitad del Mundo and straddle the divide between the hemispheres at the “middle of the world.” Visit the monument’s ethnological exhibition and then return to Quito, the first world capital to earn distinction as a UNESCO World Heritage site. On a guided tour, wander the labyrinth of streets that make up the historic old town, discovering grand colonial buildings and plazas. Step through the doors of Quito’s most beautiful churches: The Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús is known for its dazzling gilded nave and the Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco for being Quito's oldest church. Casa Gangotena (B, L)
Day 5 — Quito/Mashpi Reserve
Take a scenic road trip to the cloud forest, making a stop at Pululahua crater. This collapsed volcano is now a patchwork of plots farmed by locals taking advantage of the rich, volcanic soil. Continue to the archaeological site of Tulipe which was once home to the Yumbos, a pre-Inca civilization. Lunch on local Ecuadorian fare prepared by members of a nearby community. The day’s final destination is the Mashpi Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge set in a cloud forest reserve — and your home for the remainder of your trip. Settle into your glass-walled room, then finish the evening with a guided night walk through the surrounding jungle. Tread amid bioluminescent fungi, keeping your eyes and ears open for the forest’s nocturnal residents, including frogs, owls and kinkajous. Mashpi Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 6 — Mashpi Reserve
Rise early to witness the early-morning activity in the cloud forest. Enjoy a steaming cup of coffee on the hotel terrace as you watch birds and other species flit among nearby trees. Take a guided walk to the Life Centre, the lodge’s research station and home to myriad butterfly species. Look for howler monkeys and a variety of brightly colored birds along the way, and enjoy a picnic breakfast on the center’s deck overlooking a garden of medicinal plants. As a National Geographic guest, you’ll have the opportunity to join a resident biologist for an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the Life Centre and a nature walk that highlights ongoing research projects. Survey the canopy from the observation tower and ride an aerial bicycle through the treetops. Mashpi Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 7 — Mashpi Reserve/Quito/Depart
Bring your binoculars for a bird-watching walk, where your guide will help you spot some of the more than 400 species that make their home in the forest. Or hike past moss-covered trees, orchids and coiling vines to the 150-feet-high Copal Waterfall. Lunch at the hotel before transferring to the airport in Quito and catching an overnight flight home. (B, L)
Pricing starts at $5,300 per person, double occupancy (assuming a group of 4 travelers) or $5,500 per person, double occupancy (assuming 2 travelers). Subject to availability. Single traveler prices are available upon request. International airfare to and from Quito is not included in the expedition cost. A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals.
About Private Expeditions
Private Expeditions are designed to fit into your schedule. You choose your desired departure date and we'll make all the arrangements.
Accommodations (hotels, tents and cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. If you prefer single accommodations, and if such are available, you can pay a single supplement fee. If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we can assign a roommate of the same gender. If there is no one with whom you can share, a single supplement fee will apply.
See special terms and conditions for this adventure.